Cat cafes growing in popularity - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

Cat cafes growing in popularity

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Goat cafes, rabbit cafes, how about a cat cafe? Yes, the world of the weirdly themed cafe is hot right now.

And yet, while some of these obscure cafes grab headlines for a few days and then vanish, cat cafes have proliferated around the world, to become if not the most novel, certainly the most enduring craze when it comes to themed coffee houses.

German philosopher Albert Schweitzer reportedly once said: "The only escape from the miseries of life is music and cats."
And so it would appear.

Started in Taiwan a dozen or so years ago with a cafe called Cat Flower Garden, the concept was most enthusiastically embraced in Japan where today there are more cat cafes than anywhere else in the world -- around 150 at the last count.

Now the rest of the world is cat-ching on.

In April the United States saw it's first feline coffee house open in New York, albeit only temporarily, London recently opened its first too and a number of major European cities now also offer purr-fect coffee breaks.

Australia is soon to join the fray as well.

"My partner and I went to Japan 18 months ago -- going to a cat cafe was an amazing experience and we decided to open our own in Melbourne," says Anita Loughran, owner of Cat Cafe Melbourne, which will open in July 2014.

"It's a place where animal and cat lovers can mingle, socialize and be comfortable in a quiet environment that reflects their interests."

For the uninitiated a cat cafe doesn't sound too complicated. It's a regular cafe that happens to have cats walking, or lying, around.
But there are nuances that distinguish this kind of cafe from others.

You often need to book before you arrive, because a) the cats are liable to walk out as you walk in, and b) the ratio of people to cats needs to be controlled.

Sanitation and health issues also need to be considered, and have put some people off.

"Who wants cat hair everywhere? That would gross me out," says Diana Mullin, a non-customer from Vancouver.

But Loughran says there's nothing to worry about: "As the cats are completely separate from the cafe, this is not an issue. And if people still have their concerns they should actually visit a cat cafe first. We would not be able to open if we weren't super hygienic."

Most cafes also have a look-but-don't-grab policy, to minimize catty stress and potential clawing of customers.

After all, the idea is that these cafes provide an almost therapeutic area to chill, as Café Neko owner Takako Ishimitsu in Vienna says. Though she advises any mother visiting the cafe check her stoller before leaving: some of the cats can inadvertently turn stowaway, having sought out the warm softness of a baby carrier.

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